When out in public and around other people, you are expected to act with a certain level of care and civility. Failure to do so can result in you being charged with disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct, which is also referred to as disturbing the peace, is a serious crime in Arizona. Depending on the severity of the offense, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. This could result in fines, probation, and jail time.
Disorderly conduct is one of the more common criminal charges. It is fairly broad and not well defined, and the offense may be combined with other charges. For that reason, it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer on your side if you get arrested and charged with this type of crime.
Contact the Phoenix disorderly conduct lawyers at the Orent Law Offices, PLC for immediate legal assistance. For more than three decades, we’ve fought tirelessly to represent our clients and fight back against criminal charges. We know that your future is at stake, so we’re here to help you fight, too. Call today to set up a free consultation and learn more.
The crime of disorderly conduct is outlined in the Arizona statute – ARS § 13-2904. It was created to keep communities calm and safe and to discourage citizens from creating disturbances. Disorderly conduct often occurs in situations where groups of people gather together, either in a public display or to protest. However, note that loud parties in private homes can also violate the statute. In many of these situations, alcohol is involved.
State law describes specific behaviors that qualify as disorderly:
If you’ve been arrested for disorderly conduct in Phoenix or Maricopa county, it’s important to ask to speak with an attorney right away. Give our Phoenix law office a call to learn more.
As you may have noticed, many of the different types of behaviors listed in the law are somewhat vague. For that reason, courts will often look at the circumstances as a whole to determine whether or not your conduct is considered disturbing the peace.
For example, yelling and jumping up and down at certain sporting events is generally considered acceptable conduct. But, this same behavior outside your neighbor’s window on a public street at 2 a.m. could be considered disturbing the peace.
It is important to note that no one needs to be actually annoyed or alarmed by your actions. A charge of disorderly conduct is based on whether a “reasonable person” would have been disturbed by your behavior. This takes into account community standards regarding socially acceptable conduct. Also, your behavior need not occur in a public space. For example, making loud noises or fighting within your own home could be disorderly conduct if it would reasonably disturb your neighbors.
According to the law, to be considered disorderly conduct, a person must have the intent to disturb the peace and quiet of a neighborhood, family, or person. This would also include situations where you may not have intended to disturb the peace, but you knew that your behavior would do so. For example, a loud house party that continues after midnight might fall under this category.
This means that in cases of a reasonable mistake or accident, you would not be in violation of the law. For example, if you inadvertently sit on your keys and your car alarm goes off in the middle of the night, you would likely not have the state of mind required to be charged with a crime. Note that this situation is very different from one where you intentionally activate the alarm to annoy your roommate.
In Arizona, disturbing the peace can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific circumstances of your alleged crime and whether or not you have a criminal record.
If you are charged with disturbing the peace, the penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor. This comes with a maximum of 6 months in prison, plus a $2,500 fine and up to 3 years of probation.
If your conduct involved a deadly weapon, it is considered a class 6 felony. This carries a minimum prison sentence of 1.5 years and a maximum of 3 years. Note that if you have two or more prior felonies on your record, your prison sentence can be extended up to 5.75 years.
In many cases, domestic violence charges are included with the crime of disorderly conduct. In fact, you may be charged with domestic violence even if no violence was involved. The law requires only that the person disturbed by your behavior was a spouse, ex-spouse, parent of your child, romantic partner, or roommate.
As a consequence of being charged with both crimes, you will likely lose your right to own or possess firearms. You must also complete a 26-week mandated domestic violence program.
Note that being charged with domestic violence and disorderly conduct can create a host of other issues for you down the line. You may experience problems related to child custody and immigration consequences if you are not a U.S. citizen. You may also have a restraining order filed against you and be forced to move out of your residence. Further, if you have children, the Department of Child Safety may get involved.
As you can see, the laws related to disturbing the peace can be ambiguous and open to interpretation. For example, a police officer may have found your conduct disorderly, but a judge may disagree. For that reason, it is important to have sufficient evidence to back up your story. Generally speaking, strong evidence in these cases requires having credible witnesses. Any individuals that can corroborate your version of the events and be objective without ulterior motives will be very helpful to your case.
The law requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the required state of mind at the time of the incident. This means that they must demonstrate that a reasonable person would have been disturbed by your actions. Remember, the laws are not in place to simply punish rude or offensive behavior. Instead, the prosecution must show that you engaged in criminally disruptive conduct that would cause someone considerable distress.
Further, the law recognizes certain defenses that will result in the dismissal of a disorderly conduct charge. If the offense is related to the reckless handling or discharge of a firearm, a defense would be if the behavior was a “defensive display,” meaning you acted in self-defense. A defensive display does not require that a weapon actually be shown. It would apply if you simply informed the other person that you possess the item, such as placing your hand on it while it’s in a pocket or bag.
To establish self-defense, you must show that a reasonable person in a similar situation would have believed your action was necessary to protect against unlawful or deadly physical force. Keep in mind that you cannot use this defense if you were the one that provoked the use of force. The same result applies if you brought out the weapon during the commission of another serious offense.
Note that freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This means that you are generally free to engage in protesting or other public displays, regardless of someone else’s opinion of these actions. However, note that the law does not protect against what are known as “fighting words.” These are statements that are likely to provoke a violent reaction.
Because these rules can be complex, a qualified disorderly conduct defense attorney can evaluate your particular situation and determine if you have a first amendment defense available to you.
At Orent Law we have more than 30 years of experience trying criminal cases in Arizona. Contact our law firm today for a free initial consultation on your disorderly conduct case. We will work with you to build a strong legal defense and represent your case aggressively. Your future depends on it.
Do not wait to contact our criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix. Criminal charges are a serious matter. Even a misdemeanor conviction can remain on your record permanently. Further, Arizona does not allow for true expungement of criminal records. This means that the violation will show up in background checks and may affect important matters like employment and housing for the rest of your life.